In a stunning historical error, Los Angeles Times reporters Kathleen Hennessey, Richard Simon, Alexei Koseff reported that “Democrats led the passage of civil rights legislation that marchers pushed for in 1963.”
In fact, Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, filibustered the bill in an attempt to kill the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Republican Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (R-IL) saved the landmark civil rights law from defeat by galvanizing Senate Republicans for a cloture vote to stop the Democrat-led filibuster
On June 9, 1964, the night before the historic cloture vote, the 68-year-old Republican stayed up late into the night typing a speech on twelve sheets of Senate stationery. The next day, Senator Everett Dirksen delivered his oration on the floor of the U.S. Senate just minutes before the final vote. The final tally: 71 to 29, with 27 of the 33 Republicans voting to defeat the Democrat-led filibuster.
Democratic Majority Leader Mike Mansfield said, “This is his [Dirksen] finest hour. The Senate, the whole country is in debt to the Senator from Illinois.” Two days after Dirksen’s speech, Roy Wilkins of the NAACP wrote Dirksen a contrite letter apologizing for his earlier attacks. “The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sends its thanks to you for your vote for cloture and for your final speech before the vote,” Wilkins wrote. “Your leadership of the Republican Party in the Senate at this turning point will become a significant part of the history of this century.”
The Los Angeles Times has yet to correct its error.